A Singaporean has suggested that allowing voters to mail in ballots during the upcoming General Election (GE) would help keep citizens safe from the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Singapore seems to be gearing up to hold an election in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Last month, the Government passed a bill that would allow special measures to protect voters and candidates in the event that an election is held during the pandemic.
The Government said that the COVID-19 Special Arrangements Bill is part of its contingency plans to ensure the next GE is conducted safely under the COVID-19 situation since it is likely that the pandemic will last many more months.
The bill will permit voters who are under quarantine to cast their vote outside their electoral wards and allow affected candidates to authorise a representative to file nomination papers on their behalf. The Elections Department is also preparing to introduce measures on safe campaigning as the nation gears up to vote during the COVID crisis.
Last week, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat gave the strongest indication a minister has given to date on the timing of the elections when he said that it is better to hold the next GE sooner rather than later. Hinting that the election is coming nearer by the day, the ruling party politician asked the public to be prepared and said that calling an election early will help Singapore come together to tackle the crises ahead.
Asserting that “public health considerations and public safety will be a foremost consideration” when the GE is called, Mr Heng added: “Even the way in which elections are to be conducted will be different from before.”
Both political analysts and members of the public responding to the DPM’s remarks speculated that an election may be held as soon as July.
A forum letter writer has now urged the Government to consider allowing citizens to vote by mail. Highlighting the risks that come from having Singaporeans go to the polls in person during a health crisis, Robert James Craiu asserted that voting by mail is feasible in a nation like Singapore.
In a forum letter published by the Straits Times on Monday (1 June), Mr Craiu wrote: “Singapore is geographically small enough to make sending a paper ballot by mail to every qualified voter quite easy – this is already done with the poll cards we receive.
“The Elections Department, together with our very efficient postal service, is quite capable of sending ballots out after Nomination Day with a return address. Of course, a cut-off date would be stipulated by which the ballots would need to be returned.”
Noting that this is already practiced in some countries, Mr Craiu urged the Government to at least consider allowing senior citizens to vote by mail if it is too difficult to allow all citizens to do so, since the elderly are most at risk for COVID-19.
When he made remarks about the timing of the upcoming election last week, DPM Heng looked at South Korea, which had citizens turn up to polling stations in person. He said: “If you look at what other countries have done, they have been able to do it (hold an election), even under very difficult circumstances. South Korea has done it and in fact, they had a record turnout.”
It is unclear at this point in time what other contingency plans the Government has in mind to carry out a safe election in the event that the COVID-19 situation persists when the GE is called.
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